Mobile 2.0: Are Mobile Operators like IBM?

Another interesting discussion Tuesday on the Mobile 2.0 Fireside Chat panel was the one that Tony Fish used to lead off the discussion. Tony asked “If Apple is the new Microsoft, and Google is the new Apple, where do Mobile Operators fit?”

My answer was that Mobile Operators are the new IBM.

I assume Tony’s references to Microsoft and Apple were referencing the PC Revolution of the mid-1980s. For decades, IBM had dominated the industry, dictating to the rest of the ecosystem the rules under which they could play. Apple was birthed in innovation that showed the world what was possible in a personal computer world, but it was the open architecture introduced by IBM’s PC group, with Microsoft and Intel at the core, that redefined the entire industry.

The question is whether Mobile Operators will be the IBM that focused on using OS/2 to try to put Microsoft back in their subservient box. Or, will Mobile Operators be the IBM that became a champion of open source, enabling tremendous innovation that only sometimes directly benefited Big Blue.

Unfortunately, most Mobile Operators, by definition, suffer from Big Bell Dogma, thinking they can and should dominate the ecosystem, strong-arming upstarts like Google into staying in a constrained box.

A few operators though, including Sprint and my co-panelist from Telefonica O2, believe that operators have their value-creating role, but we are all best served when we enable innovation that accelerates growth for the entire ecosystem.

Of course, I don’t need to tell you which strategy worked best for IBM…

4 Responses to “Mobile 2.0: Are Mobile Operators like IBM?”

  1. Tony Fish says:

    Russ, indeed I was referring to the growth of the PC industry and how it has come full circle.

    Walled gardens went open and have become walled ( I cannot believe it is 10 years since I wrote “Open Gardens” with Ajit) to which the response was that AOL would never have created Facebook and that is such an important observation.

  2. Erik says:

    Great post!

    Simon Sinek wrote on a similar topic on his blog today and I really enjoyed reading about Kodak’s death grip on their walled garden:

    http://sinekpartners.typepad.com/refocus/2010/09/dont-protect-your-property.html

    The Zig Ziegler quote of “People don’t buy drills, they buy holes” is extremely relevant in all of this….who’s focusing on the customer in all of this? They’ll be the winner…

  3. Russ says:

    Thanks Erik. I enjoyed reading Simon’s piece. I didn’t know Kodak invented the digital camera!

  4. Erik says:

    You bet!

    Pretty interesting stuff when those huge vertical integrations start to break down because the market demands innovation :-)

    Similar to what we’ve seen in our industry….

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